A BT ad offering a 'free' YouView box worth £299 has been banned for misleading customers.
The Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints about the advertisement that required signing up to a contract and paying £5 for TV channels; £15.45 a month for phone line rental and a £49 'activation charge' for customers new to its TV service.
Four complaints were made about the advert, which appeared in print, TV and email format. Two were upheld while two were rejected.
The main issue was whether the claim that the YouView box was "free" was misleading, because a number of financial commitments were required in order to obtain it – effectively cancelling out any savings.
The ASA ruled that the adverts would have been acceptable if another provider had received the money from the activation charge in order to offer the service. Its ruling stated: "We considered that the activation fee was in effect linked to the YouView box and we concluded that the claim that the box was 'free' was misleading."
BT defended the advert, telling ASA that the activation fee "applied to the BT TV service, rather than to the YouView box, and that customers did not have to take the YouView box, which was separate to the calls, broadband and TV packages that customers must take to be eligible for the 'free' box."
BT has come under fire from the ASA before for misleading customers. In 2010, a national press advert purporting "instant" video and music downloads with its BT Infinity service was banned as some delays would still be experienced.
In 2009, the ASA upheld challenges brought by Sky against BT – who claimed that its BT Vision service showed new film releases before Sky Movies. ASA ruled that the advert was misleading because on-demand films were shown at the same time on Sky Box Office as BT Vision.
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